The FDA requires that skin care ingredients (including hair) on the product label be listed in the order of highest to lowest concentration. That tidbit of knowledge makes you look at the back of your products quite differently, does it not? The product claims on the front are not as appealing as before, are they? 

Did it make the top 5?

Oftentimes companies love to boast of their ingredients on the front of the packaging to get your attention, and of course they are ingredients that many curlies, coils, and wavies hone in on like argan oil, olive oil, coconut oil. You often see products touting ingredients like sea kelp, shea butter, and rich minerals. The bottom line is to make you think you need that product because of its ingredients, but if you turn the bottle around and the boasted ingredient is not within the first five ingredients then there is a high possibility that there is not enough in there to make a difference or a benefit to your tresses.

Ingredients listed near the end of the list are typically comprised of less than 1% of the total.

According to the FDA, "ingredients present at a concentration not exceeding 1% may be listed in any order after the listing of the ingredients present at more than 1% in descending order of predominance", but an ingredient at a low concentration can or cannot be effective in the product performance. Think of acne cream: benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid may not be the first ingredients but they are active ingredients that make the product effective. As the Beauty Brains explains:

"Now, before you start an 'Occupy Cosmetics' movement to complain about the 1%, let me point out that this doesn’t mean that none of the ingredients below the 1% line matter. For example, pigments are used at very low levels yet they are critically important to color cosmetics. And preservatives are only used at a few tenths of percent, yet I wouldn’t want to buy a product without them! There are many exceptions to this 'First Five' rule."

Why is water so high on the list?

According the The Natural Haven, water generally takes up 50%- 80% of the total weight of the product for shampoos and conditioners (including leave-ins). This is why you hear that water is the best moisturizer! Water does hydrate our hair and skin. It takes up the most weight in your shampoos and conditioners, but after that the next four or five ingredients matter the most or are responsible for the main purposeful properties of the product. Beauty Brains says that the four or five ingredients following the first ingredient in shampoos are the cleansers and for conditioners they are the softeners and moisturizers. That magic ingredient that made you pick up that bottle in the first place needs to be near the top of the list, so if it is not then you may want to put it back on the shelf.

Now you know why we discuss the first five ingredients and how important they are to read instead of wholeheartedly trusting the marketing claims on the packaging. The power of the product is on the back and your power as a consumer is in your ability to decipher what is best for your hair’s wants and needs.

Do you look at the ingredient list of your products?